Although the IZOD IndyCar Series' MAVTV 500 was by most accounts a great race from start-to-finish, two key points need to be raised in that IndyCar may have dodged two major bullets in the handling of race procedure.
Will Power's lap 55 accident was the catalyst for the drama after he lost control in Turn 2. IndyCar confirmed his last lap speed on lap 54 was clocked at 207.309mph.
In a repaired car, Power was not able to top 196mph in any of his 12 laps back on track, from IndyCar's timing and scoring. Speeds without stopping in the pits or running around the apron ranged from 188 to 196mph, with several interrupted laps clocking in under 130mph.
Rule 7.13 of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook states with regards to performance standards: “The Race Director may establish a performance standard which all entries entered in an event must achieve in order to participate in the event. In general, entries must perform within 105 percent of the car posting the best time and demonstrate car consistency, control/placement and interaction with other cars on track to the satisfaction of the Race Director.
“In general, the standard will be announced to all competitors prior to the start of the first practice session and will not be raised after practice has started. However, IndyCar may delay announcement of the standard until a later time based on the physical condition of the track, safety and other considerations.”
At that top speed of 196mph, the 105 percent speed would be 205.8mph. Generally speaking, leader laps ranged anywhere from 207 to 211mph, with the fastest race lap Dario Franchitti at 216.561mph on lap 228, when the track was fully dark and track temperatures had cooled.
The other potential can of worms opened came when IndyCar president of competition and race director Beaux Barfield called for a red flag following Tony Kanaan's crash on lap 241.
From the rulebook, Rule 7.1.3. on “Red Condition,” broken down to the 22.214.171.124. subsection during Race Conditions, a Red Condition is called when: “A. The red condition signifies racing conditions are no longer in effect. B. Competitors must proceed cautiously to a location designated by officials. and C. Unless otherwise instructed by Officials, no work is permitted on the cars, except entrants may plug in a booster battery and apply towels to bodywork.”
Flag conditions, Section 7.2, also denote Rule 7.2.10. as “Signifying a Red Condition.” Rule 126.96.36.199. states: “Officials will make reasonable effort to restart a Race stopped by the declaration of a red condition if the conditions warrant.”
Indeed the race was restarted from red flag conditions, and green occurred on lap 244 to give ample time to finish the race under green flag conditions. Ironically, the race ended under yellow anyway when Takuma Sato crashed in Turn 2 on the last lap.
Several drivers confirmed to RACER.com nothing was said in the driver's meeting regarding the possibility of red flags, as to whether one would come out in that situation. Two drivers thought the reason for the red was that Kanaan was injured.
"I was surprised it was called, but I guess it's never been said they couldn't," Ryan Briscoe told RACER.com. "I thought TK must have been seriously injured at the time."
Race winner Ed Carpenter said in the post-race press conference, “I guess that is a new procedure at IndyCar that none of us had heard about, but it worked out for me tonight, so I'll take it.”
Barfield had said earlier this year he would consider utilizing red flags in a situation such as what occurred Saturday night at Fontana. He also issued a defense for the call on his Facebook page, in a story that was picked up by USAToday.com.
He told AUTOSPORT that teams had been briefed on the process.
"Firstly, [rule] 188.8.131.52 [of the IndyCar rulebook] clearly outlines the red flag procedures and possibilities specifically during race conditions," Barfield said. "And while not every scenario can ever be covered during the actual meetings, there certainly have been discussions with teams about red-flagging a race during the late stages in order to ensure a race to the finish as an alternative to green-white-checker.
"The window of opportunity for this process is very small. This is why such a procedure was not implemented at the Indy 500 or Toronto, for example. Those yellows occurred too late in the race to get the race restarted."